This post was sponsored by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
Finding fun indoor family activities is always a challenge during the winter and that is more true than ever this year. The combination of needing to stay at home and the cold upstate New York winter weather means it is easy for family members to get tired of each other and become bored.
But it is important that we all do our best to stay at home during this difficult winter season to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community safe. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is working to help families come up with creative ideas for fun so they can stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy!
Stay At Home Family Activities
Here are some of the family activities my family and I have been enjoying this winter.
- Games – We play a lot of board games and card games. It is a great way to pass the time and encourage friendly cooperation. We have also been playing board games online with my two daughters who no longer live at home. This helps them feel like part of the group even though they can’t be here in person.
- Movie nights – Theaters are closed, but we can still enjoy a good movie. Make a big bucket of popcorn and settle down for a double feature.
- Cooking – Since we have been cooking at home so much, we have been sharing the cooking and making things together. This is both fun and practical since it spreads the work around.
- Arts and Crafts – We are planning a family paint night for the end of the month where we all try to recreate the same painting from online directions. None of us are very artistic, so this should be interesting!
You can find even more fun suggestions for indoor activities at the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield website!
Recently we decided to take our shared cooking to a new level and do a Chopped Challenge at home. We had a blast! Here are some tips for hosting your own version of Chopped with your family.
Family Chopped Challenge
The challenge is based on the TV show Chopped, in which professional chefs are given a set of random ingredients and challenged to make a dish. The chefs compete to see whose dish is the best. Here are the steps to running your own Chopped challenge at home.
- Decide on the list of ingredients that need to be in the final dish. Pick from 1-4 ingredients. If you have younger children and less experienced cooks I’d recommend requiring fewer ingredients. For our challenge we made some of the ingredients open ended. For example we said the final dish had to include fruit, but let each cook pick what kind of fruit would work best. Also keep in mind that ideally you’d like all the final dishes to be edible, so don’t pick things that will be too difficult, like making a dessert from a can of tuna fish.
- Choose whether the dish should be an appetizer, entree or dessert. My family unanimously voted for dessert.
- Family members can work in teams or work individually. If you have young children it can work well to pair them with a parent.
- Set any other rules you think you need, but remember it is supposed to be fun, not a serious competition. We decided not to have a strict time constraint, because we were all sharing equipment like one mixer and one oven. We also shared ideas and made suggestions to each other as we went along.
- Set the judging criteria. Traditionally the dishes are judged on taste, presentation and use of ingredients. We decided that taste was the most important criteria and gave less weight to the other two. My husband judged instead of cooking, but you can still make it work if everyone is cooking. You don’t even need to judge the final dishes, just eat everything and talk about what worked and didn’t work.
Our challenge was to make a dessert with the following ingredients:
- Gelatin, flavor to be chosen by the cook
- Sunflower seeds
- Some kind of fruit
We chose those ingredients because while cleaning out the pantry earlier in the week we discovered we had many boxes of gelatin and 2 large bags of sunflower seeds that no one was using. So this challenge seemed like a great way to use up some pantry excess.
However this combination of ingredients turned out to be a bit more challenging than we expected. But we had a lot of fun coming up with ideas to use the ingredients and created three different desserts.
I combined the Jell-O with a strawberry cake mix to make a pink and blue Poke Cake. I topped it off with whipped topping mixed with strawberries. Then I coated the sunflower seeds in melted chocolate chips and sprinkled them on top of the cake. My recipe used all the ingredients but the sunflower seeds and chocolate were clearly after thoughts, not an integral part of the dish.
My son’s college friend Anna, who is living with us for the semester, ground up the sunflower seeds and made sunflower seed chocolate chip cookies. She then layered them with Jell-O, bananas and whipped topping for a parfait. This dessert did a better job of using everything together. Unfortunately the cookies, while delicious on their own, didn’t really go well with gelatin.
My son, Robert, started out on a team with Anna, but after about half an hour he decided he could do better on his own. He felt that we were being too complicated and a simple recipe was going to be a winner. So he made a basic Jell-O salad. He made the gelatin and once it started to set he stirred in pomegranate arils, sunflower seeds and chocolate chips. Then he topped it off with marshmallows and an Oreo cookie.
The biggest thing we learned from this challenge is that sunflower seeds are not a great dessert ingredient! They were just too strong tasting and overwhelmed the other flavors.
Anna’s parfait was judged to have the best presentation and best use of ingredients. But the poke cake tasted the best, mainly because I succeeded in hiding the taste of the sunflower seeds. We all agreed the Jell-O salad just tasted weird, especially because of the cookie on top. Overall it was deemed a tie between the parfait and the poke cake.
But even though we didn’t end up with the best tasting desserts ever we did have a great time! It was a lot of fun to work together to make different creations and laugh at what we made. We are already planning a new challenge for a few weeks from now with easier ingredients!
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
You can find a list with more ideas for fun family activities that can be done at home at the Excellus BlueCross BlueShield website. There are also resources to help educate families about the virus, tests and vaccines so we can keep our community safe. In addition Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has a 24/7 Nurse Hotline available for questions related to self-care and mental health.
This winter is a great time to try something new and different as a family. While this winter might not be the winter we hoped or planned for, it still can be a time to have fun and strengthen family bonds.